Ooh, Interesting! - Eurovision Song Contest Facts

May 13, 2016

We are rounding out the blog this week with our classic look at the Eurovision Song Contest, the final of which is tomorrow at 8pm on BBC1. But you knew that. We all knew that. This is the Eurovision! That means you’ll already know where you’re watching it, will presumably have already bought the bumper bag of flags and will heartily cheer on Joe and Jake. With the competition airing in the US and China for the first time, we thought we’d provide a few of interesting facts to help get them up to speed.

1. The contest always opens with the playing of the fanfare from Prelude To Te Deum by Marc- Antoine Charpentier, which for better or worse, has come to be known as the ‘Eurovision Anthem’.

2. Hosting counts are a huge deal. The contest began in 1956 and up until 1977, there was only one presenter. From 1978 to 1995, there was either one or two. Between 1996 and 2009, a male/female duo became the norm - except in 1999 where three people presented - and from 2010 to 2015, a trio became the popular option. The one exception is 2013, which saw the first solo presenting effort in 18 years (nice work, Petra Mede).

3. No song can last longer than three minutes. This means that this week’s number 1, One Dance by Drake, would be eligible for Eurovision, coming in at 2:59. Clearly Drake’s producer had that in the back of his mind. This also means that only one track from both Beyonce and Justin Bieber’s latest albums would be eligible. Harsh rules indeed!

4. Nobody really cares about where a singer is from. Organisers tend to leave it up to the country to decide who they’d like to represent them. As such, Celine Dion represented Switzerland in 1988, a man named Dave Benton brought glory to Estonia in 2001 despite being born on the caribbean island of Aruba and the UK’s last winners - Katrina & the Waves in 1997 - sported an American front woman. “But who cares?,” they all shout, “we won!” This certainly seems the case with Luxembourg; they’ve won five times and not one of them was born in the country.

5. If you feel embarrassed by the UK’s lack of success over the past twenty years, spare a thought for Portugal. They’ve been entering since 1964 and never come close to winning. They used to have a kindred spirit in Finland, who had never won in 45 years until Lordi brought the title home with Hard Rock Hallelujah in 2006.

6. On the other side of the coin, Ireland won the Eurovision Song Contest 4 times in 5 years between 1992 and 1996, whilst Sweden have won it 3 times since 1999. 

7. Norway lead the line when it comes to attaining Nul Points in the contest. They’ve managed this feat four times, but you’ll be spared hearing them this year as they got knocked out in the Semi-Final. Speaking of nul points, the UK gave that score to Abba in 1974 (or 'The Abba Group' as the commentator says) but it didn’t stop them winning with Waterloo. When Abba won, they were conducted by a man dressed as Napoleon, so there's a free fact for you.

8. Although the contest began in 1956, nobody knows how the voting was decided that year (except for the fact Switzerland won.) To add to this, if you’re looking to watch the 1964 contest then you’re out of luck; the Danish hosts managed to lose the tape so no recording of the event exists. Whoops!

9. The contest almost didn’t happen in 1977 with a BBC strike causing a halt to proceedings. The original contest had to be postponed, but thankfully nobody involved was doing anything else a few weeks later so everyone reconvened at Wembley and France romped home to victory.

10. Brexit will have no effect on whether or not the UK continue to take part in Eurovision. It all comes down to whether or not a counter is part of the European Broadcasting Union, which actually has a fair number of North African members. This explains why Israel, Morocco and Lebanon have all sent along songs in the past (though the latter were thrown out in 2005 before competing, as they’d said they’d black out the Israeli entry). Political!

Bonus Fact: Speaking of politics, many people complain about the voting each year, which is why a jury was brought in to help quell the tide of the televoting. Unfortunately this still means that some countries voting patterns are obvious. Greece didn’t get through to the Finals this year but rest assured they’ll hand all 12 points to Cyprus as usual.

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